Spike.com has officially launched its new platform for men, a combination of ifilm.com and SpikeTV.com, “The new Spike.com is not your typical network site,” said Erik Flannigan, Executive Vice President of Digital Media for MTVN Entertainment Group earlier this week. Flannigan noted that MTVN acquired ifilm.com in October 2005 during the same week Apple announced it would be releasing a video iPod and weeks prior to the launch of the now ubiquitous YouTube.
Flannigan cited two reasons for the merger of the two sites. They share the same demographic -- men 18 to 34. “Also,” he said, “in order to command premium ad dollars on the Internet, you really need a brand that can attract sponsorship dollars but you also need the inventory that can back up those buys. The old SpikeTV.com, because it could be sold convergently with the network, had access to a lot of high CPM sponsorships, custom integrations, tie-ins with our tent-poles like the VGAs [Video Game Awards]. That’s what major advertisers want and in some ways, I still think they want it even more than they want reach.”
Flannigan described the initial merger as a “Frankenstein website” because the URLs were simply merged without a redesign. “Today is the day that we’re really re-launching the site in an iteration that shows where we’re trying to go and who we’re trying to target. And we’re doing that through a bunch of new, social features and programming,” Flannigan said.
Jon Slusser, Senior Vice President of Spike Digital and Video Games, described the core differentiators for Spike.com as the Spike editorial filter and creative on-air executions. “What that means is this unapologetically male view of the world, the passion points that guys have and the ways that guys talk to guys about these passion points. For the first time, instead of just having video, we have all these different ways of communicating this voice to the audience,” said Slusser.
As a result, Spike executives have found themselves playing the role of an agency, working with clients to lend the Spike voice to their products and then producing creative content that goes beyond traditional advertising.
An example is Random Acts of Cheetos, which was created internally by Spike. Six thirty-second spots were released on February 12th and have collectively attracted over 1.5 million views. The clips are preceded by 15-minute pre-roll advertising for Snickers. The most popular clip, Cheetos Remote, reveals that Cheetos taste great but cannot power electrical devices. “Who cares if the remote doesn't work.....you gotta couple of Cheetos instead!” commented one fan.
When I asked if there was a user-generated component to the campaign, Flannigan said, “The toolset wasn’t quite there yet to turn that into the phenomenon it was.” He went on to say there is a YouTube video of people paying tribute to Spike’s Star Wars advertising by doing their own versions of the Star Wars ads. “Some of this stuff happens organically,” he said. “If we had done that as a contest, would it have been as successful as the fact that the fans galvanized on their own and started to do it? At the same time, we didn’t exactly have a platform that was ready for them to be able to do that. So they did it on their own. Now, we’re ready to embrace that stuff and make it happen. I think you’ll see more of that audience participation stuff coming in some of these sponsorship integrations beyond just contest entries.”
Dario Spina, Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing for MTV Entertainment, mentioned a campaign sponsored by the U.S. Army. Fans upload salutes to overseas troops and the best salutes will be compiled into a :30 second spot to premier during this year’s Guy’s Choice Awards, which will air on June 22nd at 10pm. Spina called the initiative “reverse convergence.” He went on to say, “We not only look to enhance sponsorships, we also want to take a ride on consumer behavior and make sure that the engagement is that much further driven by what our fans are normally doing online and then insert great creative sponsorship and custom creative.”
Spike also announced several content partnerships, the most notable of which is their plan to create custom content in conjunction with Playboy, which will run live on both Spike.com and Playboy.com. Hugh Hefner will be honored at this year’s Guy’s Choice Awards.